The Comeback: Ebel Is Reviving Its Legendary 1911 Grande and Sports Classic Collections
The Swiss brand is remaking these sport-chic classics with of-the-moment mechanisms and flair.
As the saying goes: History repeats itself. As much as we crave innovation, watch enthusiasts, in particular, are constantly rediscovering and re-appreciating designs from the past. Just think of Tissot’s revival of its PRX line from the late 1970s. Or the impact of the Vacheron Constantin 222, a model from the 1970s that was reintroduced at Watches & Wonders earlier this year.
Heritage is hot right now. Especially when it comes to slender sports watches from the 1970s and 1980s. Which means…it’s the perfect time for an Ebel renaissance.
Ebel was founded in 1911 in La Chaux-de-Fonds by husband and wife duo Eugène Blum and Alice Levy. The company name — an acronym of their initials “EB et L “— is a testament to their love. Unlike most Swiss manufacturers who suffered during the quartz crisis, Ebel hit their heyday in the1980s. Two collections, the Sport Classic (introduced in 1977) and the 1911 (debuting in 1983) helped define the decade: Sharon Stone was a brand ambassador, and Don Johnson wore a 1911 on Miami Vice.
Due to fluctuating changes in product distribution, the brand remained well respected by enthusiasts but was woefully under-marketed until the Movado Group acquired Ebel in 2004. It’s just taken a while for the general public to catch up.
Sign of the Times
One of Movado’s first moves when it bought Ebel, was to revive the brand’s Sport Classic collection. Originally marketed to men (tennis star Yannick Noah famously wore one after his victory over Roland Garros in 1983), the Sport Classic could be called the original boyfriend watch, and was quickly championed by the ladies.
One reason that the revival of the Sport Classic was so timely is society’s rapidly evolving sense of style. Remember how the TV show Seinfeld mocked sweatpants in the 1990s, but, in 2022, Jerry himself appeared in an advert for luxury loungewear label KITH ?
Well, today, sports watches are now perfectly welcome in all but the most formal activities. While this new 2022 collection still maintains the signature wave-design integrated bracelet and many other design codes of its predecessors, it has been elevated with colorful dials and the use of precious metals and natural stones. The Sport Classic Lady and Sport Classic Grande both come in “mint” and “praline,” for example, for a fun take on elegance.
This fall, Ebel also introduced three new limited edition Sport Classic Natural Stones models in 18k gold and stainless steel with intensely colored dials made of tiger eye, lapis lazuli, and malachite. Furthermore, this trio is further decorated with diamonds on the indices and bezel.
One of the standouts of the 2022 introductions is the diamond-studded Stardust. This limited edition timepiece not only uses 47 diamonds of different sizes to create a unique pattern on the dial, its alternating mix of steel and gold on the bracelet, screws and case also provides a fresh take on the renewed two-tone trend.
For all of these premium details, the Sports Classic is an excellent value proposition thanks to it being powered by an eight-jewel ETA E61 C31 quartz movement.
The 411 On The 1911
Ebel’s other important revival this year is the 1911. Instantly recognizable by its characteristic case shape, five signature screws and satin finish, this year’s updated version stands out thanks to its redesigned bracelet. Thinner and far more fluid, its smoothness is something you should experience in person to truly appreciate what an innovation it is.
A passion for innovation and excellence in watch design has always been at the heart of the Ebel brand: Eugene created the movements while Alice was responsible for designs that melded jewelry traditions with horological utility. The 1911 was created to recognize this marriage of technical expertise and distinctive style. And almost 40 years later, it still stands out.
This year, Ebel has introduced four new members to the 1911 family: The Grande Ochre with its earth-toned mother-of-pearl dial; The Grande White MOP; The Grande Marine with its galvanic blue, sunray-finished face; and The Grande Blue & Green with its pastel green surface.
This quartet shares many characteristics. They all have a silhouette influenced by architecture, especially the modernist design cues developed by Swiss designer/architect Le Corbusier (Ebel, in fact, used to bill itself as “The Architects of Time”). All are forged from stainless steel (although the mother-of-pearl versions also have 18k gold accents), and all but the Marine are sized at 34mm for smaller wrists.
Those differences are meaningful. The Grande Ochre and Grande White again have quartz movements (in this case the Ronda 705) to help make these pieces more friendly financially. The Marine, however, is powered by the Selita SW300-1 mechanical automatic calibre.
This 42mm watch also features an aluminum bi-directional bezel, sapphire crystal and case back and also comes with a steel bracelet and a fabric strap, because versatility is very important in our modern age.